Over the weekend the Phoenix Coyotes announced the winners of the club's 2011-12 team awards. The awards included Fry's Food Stores team MVP, Ganem Jewelers Three-Star Award, Desert Schools Leading Scorer Award, Jukka Nieminen Memorial Trophy and the Gila River Casinos Man of the Year Award.
Goaltending was one of the Coyote biggest questions coming into the season, but Mike Smith had a career year in net and it was only fitting that he took home the team MVP Award. Smith would also take home the Ganem Jewlers Three-Star award. Smith has been selected as a star of the game 31 times this season and was named a star at Jobing.com Arena 18 times in 2011-12 to win the Ganem Jewelers Three Star Award.
Smith is having a tremendous season, posting a record of 34-18-10 with a 2.33 goals against average (GAA) and a .926 save percentage to win the Fry's Food Stores Team MVP Award. The Coyotes broadcast media and Arizona Republic hockey writers voted for the award. With four games remaining in the regular season, Smith has already set career highs in wins (34), shutouts (6) and save percentage (.926) and posted the second best GAA (2.33) of his career. He currently ranks tied for fourth in the NHL in wins (34), 12th in GAA, seventh in save percentage and tied for fourth in shutouts.
The 30-year-old native of Kingston, Ontario was named the NHL's Player of the Month for February after posting a remarkable 11-0-0 record which led the League in wins. His 11-game winning streak was a franchise record and tied for the longest in the NHL this season. Smith also was tied for first in February with a .952 save percentage and ranked second with a 1.42 goals-against average. He recorded back-to-back shutouts Feb. 11 against the Chicago Blackhawks and Feb. 16 at the Los Angeles Kings and posted a career-high 171:26 shutout sequence that ended Feb. 18 against the Dallas Stars. He was also named the NHL's Player of the Week for the period ending Feb. 12.
The ageless wonder Ray Whitney took home the Desert Schools Leading Scorer Award. The 39-year-old Whitney leads all Coyotes players in points with 23-50-73 after 78 games. Among all NHL players, Whitney ranks tied for 11th in points and tied for sixth in assists. Whitney also entered the 1,000 point club during Saturday's game. He is only the 79th player in NHL history to tally 1,000 points.
It was no surprise that Shane Doan received the Jukka Nieminen Memorial Trophy as the Coyotes' hardest working player. The 35-year-old native of Halkirk, Alberta ranks third on the Coyotes in scoring with 21-26-47 after 75 games. Doan has now scored 20 or more goals in 11 of the past 12 seasons. He also collected five power play goals and five game winning goals this year. Doan was selected as the winner by the fans who voted at PhoenixCoyotes.com.Jason LaBarbera earned the Gila River Casinos Man of the Year Award for his dedication, commitment and passion for bettering the lives of those in the community during his third season as a member of the Coyotes.
LaBarbera and his wife Kodette started the International Love for Lokomotiv Fund which raised money for the families who lost loved ones in the KHL Russian plane crash. In addition, LaBarbera honored Arizona hero Pat Tillman by putting a picture of him on his goalie mask and donates $420 to the Pat Tillman Foundation after each of his wins.
LaBarbera and his wife also led numerous local initiatives for organizations including Ryan House, St Joseph's Hospital, Children First Academy, Phoenix Children's Hospital and Gabriel's Angels and are the co-chairs of the Fight for Air Walk which benefits the American Lung Association.
Awards are nice, but the Coyotes don't have time to linger on them with only three games left. Teams in the Western Conference are still scrambling for playoff seeds, so the Coyotes need to concentrate on winning their remanining games and locking up a spot in the postseason.